All Rivers Run to the Sea

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2555

Autobiographies pour out names and faces. Memoirs are detailed by encounters large and small. While conforming to those conventions, this book is unconventional. It is distinctive not only because Elie Wiesel recalls extraordinary encounters and remembers striking names and faces, but especially because this work shows how his remarkable moral and spiritual outlook emerged from the twentieth century’s greatest darkness.

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Intertwined, three fundamental facts pulse at the heart of Wiesel’s story. He is a Jew, a writer, and a survivor of the Holocaust, which was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of nearly six million Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. Wiesel weaves the particularity of his life into the fabric of twentieth century history, which has been ripped by unprecedented mass murder and torn by immeasurable human suffering.

One day when he was eight years old, Wiesel accompanied his mother, Sarah, when she went to see her rabbi. After speaking to her in the boy’s presence, Rabbi Israel spent time with him alone. What was he learning about Judaism, the old man wanted to know. After the young Wiesel responded, Rabbi Israel spoke to his mother again—this time privately.

When Sarah Wiesel emerged from that encounter, she was sobbing. Try as he might, Elie Wiesel never persuaded her to say why. Twenty-five years later, and almost by chance, he learned the reason for his mother’s tears. Anshel Feig, a relative in whom Wiesel’s mother had confided on that day, told him that Elie’s mother had heard the old rabbi say, “Sarah, know that your son will become a gadol b’Israel, a great man in Israel, but neither you nor I will live to see the day. That’s why I’m telling you now.”

Wiesel tells this story early in his memoirs. It reveals much about him and sets the autobiography’s tone. For Wiesel, stories are important because they raise questions. Wiesel’s questions, in turn, lead not so much to answers as to other stories. Typically, autobiographies settle issues; memoirs put matters to rest. Wiesel, however, has a different plan for this book, as well as for its projected second volume. His storytelling invites readers to share his questions, but the questions his stories provoke do not produce indifference and despair. Instead they lead to more stories and further questions that encourage protest against those conditions.

Wiesel’s life makes him wonder—sometimes in anger, frequently in awe, often in sadness, but always in ways that intensify memory so that bitterness can be avoided, hatred resisted, truth defended, and justice served. The stories within Wiesel’s story can affect his readers in the same way.

Rabbi Israel was right about Elie Wiesel. The shy, religious Jewish boy grew up to become an acclaimed author, a charismatic speaker, and a dedicated humanitarian. In 1986, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, one of the world’s highest honors. In his particularity as a Jew—it includes dedicated compassion for Jews who suffered under Soviet rule and passionate loyalty to Israel—as well as in his universality as a human being, Wiesel qualifies as “a great man.”

Rabbi Israel was also right about Sarah Wiesel. Neither she, nor Rabbi Israel, nor Wiesel’s beloved father, Shlomo, lived to see his major accomplishments. Wiesel insists that none of his success is worth the violence unleashed, the losses incurred, the innocence demolished in a lifetime measured not simply by past, present, and future, but through time broken before, during, and after Auschwitz. He would be the first to say that it would have been better if his cherished little sister, Tsiporah, had lived and all of his many books had gone unwritten, for in that case the Holocaust might not have happened. Wiesel’s honors weigh heavily upon him. They are inseparable from a question that will not go away: How can I justify my survival when my family and my world were destroyed?

Wiesel did not expect to survive the Holocaust. To this day, he wonders how and why he did. At the same time, his Jewish tradition and his own experience underscore that events never happen purely by accident. And yet—Wiesel’s two favorite words—especially where the Holocaust is concerned, the fact that events are linked by more than chance does not mean that everything can be explained or understood, at least not completely. Only by testifying about what happened in the Holocaust, only by bearing witness as truthfully and persistently as possible about what was lost, does Wiesel find that his survival makes sense. Yet the sense that it makes can never be enough to remove the scarring question marks that the Holocaust has burned forever into humanity’s history and God’s creation.

Wiesel’s memoirs are not triumphal vindications. They are drenched in sadness and melancholy. Yet sadness and melancholy, and the despair to which they might yield, are not their last words. Out of them Wiesel forges something much more affirmative. Optimism, faith, hope—those words are too facile to contain his outlook. Defiance, resistance, protest—those terms come closer, but even they have to be supplemented by an emphasis on friendship, dialogue, reaching out to others, helping people in need, working to make people free, and striving to mend the world.

This book’s greatest contribution is ethical and spiritual. It shows how Wiesel found ways to transform his suffering into sharing, his pain into caring. These transformations do not mean that Wiesel forgives any more than he forgets. The Holocaust was too immense, too devastating, to be redeemed by forgiveness that God or anyone else can give. Because the world has been shattered so severely, Wiesel believes that the moral imperative is to do all that one can to repair it. Otherwise, hatred and death win victories they never deserve.

In 1964, Elie Wiesel revisited his hometown. For more than one reason, his return to Sighet, that place in Eastern Europe where Sarah Wiesel and Rabbi Israel had their fateful conversation, was anything but easy. After his liberation from Buchenwald in April of 1945, Wiesel had gone to France, where he eventually became a reporter for an Israeli newspaper. Years later, his journalistic work took him to New York, where he became an American citizen.

Sighet was far away. The distance, however, did not involve mileage alone. Once a part of Romania, then annexed by Hungary, and once more under Romanian control, Sighet stood behind the Iron Curtain in the 1960’s. Cold War politics made the journey difficult and dangerous. Nevertheless, Wiesel was determined to go back to Sighet, “the town beyond the wall,” as one of his best novels calls it.

Memory drew him there, even though Wiesel already knew what his visit would confirm: Sighet no longer existed—at least not as it was when he was born there in 1928, or as he had known the place until he left it at the age of fifteen in 1944. More than time had passed. People had come and gone, but that fact only began to tell Sighet’s story. Those things happen everywhere, but the way they happened in Sighet, the particularity and enormity of what happened there and in thousands of places like it, made Sighet’s disappearance so devastating that the world itself could never again be what it was before. Sighet vanished in the Holocaust’s night and fog. Only traces remained of what once had been. Sighet’s streets looked familiar to Wiesel in 1964, although one called the Street of Jews contained apartments that seemed as modest as they now were empty. His boyhood eyes must have been unaware of the poverty that many of Sighet’s Jews experienced.

The motion picture house still existed. The family house stood still. It had not been sold but taken; strangers occupied it. Wiesel found that Jewish cemetery. He lit candles at his grandfather’s grave. Elsewhere, Sighet was filled with living people, but Wiesel’s hometown was gone. As the Germans liked to say twenty years before, Sighet had become judenrein. Along with hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews, the largest remaining community of European Jews that had not yet been decimated by the Nazis, the Jews of Sighet were deported to Auschwitz in the spring of 1944.

Wiesel and his two older sisters, Hilda and Bea, survived the Holocaust, but most of Sighet’s Jews, including his father, mother, and little sister did not. Few of the survivors went back to Sighet after the Nazis surrendered in May, 1945. Poignantly, Wiesel reflects on all that was lost as he describes his visit to one of the few synagogues that was still open two decades later. Stacked inside were hundreds of books—Wiesel calls them “holy books”—that had been taken from abandoned Jewish homes and stored there. He discovered some that had belonged to him. Tucked inside one, he writes, were “some yellowed, withered sheets of paper in a book of Bible commentaries.” Wiesel recognized the handwriting they contained. It was his. Summing up his sadness, his memoirs observe that the finding of those pages is “a commentary on the commentaries I had written at the age of thirteen or fourteen.” This story, the existence of yellow, withered sheets of paper, a boy’s reflections on the Bible—all are part of a world that disappeared. Wiesel seeks to make it live again through memory, testimony, and writing. The episodes he records make questions explode: Why did the Allies refuse to bomb the railways to Auschwitz? Why did Wiesel’s family not accept the help of their housekeeper, Maria? One of the very few Christians in Sighet who offered assistance to Sighet’s Jews, she might have hidden the family successfully. Why was the world so indifferent to Jewish suffering? Why was God?

Wiesel’s narrative does not follow a strictly chronological form. His story does not fit the usual style of beginning-middle-end. The memories of his life circle around one another too much for that. From time to time, Wiesel breaks this commentary on himself even further by reflecting on his dreams. In one of them, the Wiesel family has gathered for a holiday celebration. Elie is asked to sing, but he cannot remember the traditional songs. He is asked for a story, but the stories have been forgotten, too. “Grandfather,” Wiesel calls out in his dream, “help me, help me find my memory!” Astonished, Wiesel’s grandfather looks back at him. “You’re not a child anymore,” he says. “You’re almost as old as I am.”

Elie Wiesel has lived for a long time. He has experienced and remembered more than most people, but he wrote profoundly about forgetting. If we stop remembering, he warns, we stop being. Wiesel is older now than most of his extended family who perished in the Holocaust. Taking his memoirs’ title from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, which speaks of how generations come and go and of how the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing, Wiesel sounds a characteristically mystical note as he considers how all rivers run to the sea.

Beginning in obscurity, streams of experience and memory rush forth. As they grow and merge, life’s currents become a flood that eventually pours into the ocean’s awesome depth. Like Elie Wiesel’s memoirs, the sea does not yield all of its secrets. In- stead its storms rage, its waves crash, its tides ebb and flow, and there are moments of beauty, calm, and silence, too. Through it all, the sea endures, which is not an answer but an invitation to more stories and to their questions about how and why.

Suggested Readings

Berenbaum, Michael. Elie Wiesel: God, the Holocaust, and the Children of Israel. West Orange, N.J.: Behrman House, 1994. This reprint of The Vision of the Void, Berenbaum’s thoughtful 1979 study of Elie Wiesel, emphasizes Wiesel’s insights about Jewish tradition.

Berenbaum, Michael. The Vision of the Void: Theological Reflections on the Works of Elie Wiesel. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1979.

Berger, Alan L. Crisis and Covenant: The Holocaust in American Jewish Fiction. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985. Contains important reflections on Wiesel’s encounters with and impact on American Jewish life.

Boston Globe. November 26, 1995, p. 15.

Brown, Robert McAfee. Elie Wiesel: Messenger to All Humanity. Rev. ed. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989. A leading Christian theologian provides an important overview and interpretation of Wiesel’s multifaceted writing.

Cargas, Harry James. Conversations with Elie Wiesel. South Bend, Ind.: Justice Books, 1992. An updated and expanded edition of Cargas’s 1976 interviews with Wiesel, this important book features Wiesel speaking not only about the Holocaust but also about his audience, craft, and mission as a witness and writer.

Chicago Tribune. November 26, 1995, II, p. 2.

Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven. By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. Ezrahi insightfully discusses Wiesel’s writings in the context of a wide range of Holocaust literature.

International Herald Tribune. December 18, 1995, p. 9.

Horowitz, Sara. Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. Contains a helpful discussion of Wiesel’s emphasis on the importance of memory.

Langer, Lawrence L. The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1975. A leading Holocaust scholar interprets Wiesel’s work in ways that are insightful and accessible.

The Nation. CCLXI, December 25, 1995, p. 839.

New York. XXVIII, December 11, 1995, p. 72.

The New York Times Book Review. C, December 17, 1995, p. 7.

Patterson, David. The Shriek of Silence: A Phenomenology of the Holocaust Novel. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Patterson’s book explores the distinctive ways in which Wiesel wrestles with the theme of silence as a feature of the Holocaust and its aftermath.

Rittner, Carol, ed. Elie Wiesel: Between Memory and Hope. New York: New York University Press, 1990. Philosophers, theologians, and literary critics respond to the ethical, religious, and philosophical themes explored in Wiesel’s diverse writings.

Rosen, Alan, ed. Celebrating Elie Wiesel: Stories, Essays, Reflections. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998. Distinguished scholars reflect on the ethical and religious dimensions of Wiesel’s essays and novels.

Rosenfeld, Alvin H., and Irving Greenberg, eds. Confronting the Holocaust: The Impact of Elie Wiesel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978. Including “Why I Write,” a significant essay by Wiesel, this volume contains a balanced collection of worthwhile essays written by scholars from varied disciplines.

Roth, John K. A Consuming Fire: Encounters with Elie Wiesel and the Holocaust. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979.

Roth, John K. A Consuming Fire: Encounters with Elie Wiesel and the Holocaust. Atlanta, Ga.: John Knox Press, 1979. This book explores key philosophical and religious themes in Wiesel’s authorship, drawing out their implications for post-Holocaust Christianity.

Roth, John K., and Frederick Sontag. The Questions of Philosophy. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1988. Wiesel’s perspectives on the relationships among God, evil, and human responsibility are discussed in a chapter entitled “How Should I Deal with Evil and Death?”

Stern, Ellen N. Elie Wiesel: Witness for Life. New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1982.

Wiesel, Elie, and Richard D. Heffner. Conversations with Elie Wiesel. Edited by Thomas J. Vinciguerra. New York: Schocken, 2001. A dialog between Wiesel and his interviewer. Offers the reader a wide-ranging discussion in which Wiesel touches on tolerance, nationalism, and state-endorsed killing.

John K. Roth

Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 102

Autobiographies pour out names and faces, and memoirs contain details about encounters large and small. While conforming to those conventions, All Rivers Run to the Sea is unconventional because it shows how Elie Wiesel’s moral and spiritual outlook emerged from the twentieth century’s greatest darkness, the Holocaust. Three fundamental facts inform Wiesel’s story: He is a Jew, a writer, and a survivor of the Holocaust, which was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of nearly six million Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. Wiesel’s reflections on these facts emphasize the importance of resisting hate, despair, and indifference.

A Rabbi’s Prediction

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 518

One day when he was eight years old, Wiesel accompanied his mother, Sarah, when she went to see her rabbi. After speaking to her in the boy’s presence, Rabbi Israel spent time with him alone. What was he learning about Judaism, the old man wanted to know. After the young Wiesel responded, Rabbi Israel spoke to his mother again—this time privately.

When Sarah Wiesel emerged from that encounter, she was sobbing. Try as he might, Elie Wiesel never persuaded her to say why. Twenty-five years later, and almost by chance, he learned the reason for his mother’s tears. Anshel Feig, a relative in whom Wiesel’s mother had confided on that day, told him that Elie’s mother had heard the old rabbi say, “Sarah, know that your son will become a gadol b’Israel, a great man in Israel, but neither you nor I will live to see the day. That’s why I’m telling you now.”

Wiesel tells this story early in his memoirs. It reveals much about him and sets the autobiography’s tone. For Wiesel, stories are important because they raise questions. Wiesel’s questions, in turn, lead not so much to answers as to other stories. Typically, autobiographies settle issues; memoirs put matters to rest. Wiesel’s plan is different. His storytelling invites readers to share his questions, but the questions his stories provoke lead to more stories and further questions that encourage protest against indifference and despair. Wiesel’s life makes him wonder—sometimes in anger, frequently in awe, often in sadness, but always in ways that intensify memory so that bitterness can be avoided, hatred resisted, truth defended, and justice served. The stories within Wiesel’s story can affect his readers in the same way. If few resolutions follow, greater moral sensitivity can be aroused.

Rabbi Israel was right about Elie Wiesel. The shy, religious, Jewish boy grew up to become an acclaimed author, a charismatic speaker, and a dedicated humanitarian. In 1986, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, one of the world’s highest honors. In his particularity as a Jew—which includes dedicated compassion for Jews who suffered under Soviet rule and passionate loyalty to Israel—as well as in his universality as a human being, Wiesel qualifies as “a great man.”

Rabbi Israel was also right about Sarah Wiesel. Neither she, nor Rabbi Israel, nor Wiesel’s father, Shlomo, lived to see his major accomplishments. Wiesel insists that none of his success is worth the violence unleashed, the losses incurred, the innocence demolished in a lifetime measured not simply by past, present, and future, but through time broken before, during, and after Auschwitz. He would be the first to say that it would have been better if his cherished little sister, Tsiporah, had lived and all of his many books had gone unwritten, for in that case the Holocaust might not have happened. Wiesel’s honors weigh heavily upon him. They are inseparable from a question that will not go away: How can I justify my survival when my family and my world were destroyed?

A Holocaust Survivor

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 319

Wiesel did not expect to survive the Holocaust. He wonders how and why he did. At the same time, his Jewish tradition and his own experience underscore that events never happen purely by accident. And yet—Wiesel’s two favorite words—especially where the Holocaust is concerned, the fact that events are linked by more than chance does not mean that everything can be explained or understood, at least not completely. Only by testifying about what happened in the Holocaust, only by bearing witness as truthfully and persistently as possible about what was lost, does Wiesel find that his survival makes sense. However, the sense that it makes can never be enough to remove the scarring question marks that the Holocaust has burned forever into Wiesel’s experience, humanity’s history, and God’s creation.

Wiesel’s memoirs are not triumphal vindications. They are drenched in sadness and melancholy. However, sadness and melancholy, and the despair to which they might yield, are not their last words. Out of those ingredients, Wiesel forges something much more affirmative. Optimism, faith, hope—those words are too facile to contain his outlook. Defiance, resistance, protest—those terms come closer, but even they have to be supplemented by an emphasis on friendship, dialogue, reaching out to others, helping people in need, working to make people free, and striving to mend the world.

This book’s greatest contribution is ethical and spiritual. It shows how Wiesel found ways to transform his suffering into sharing, his pain into caring. These transformations do not mean that Wiesel forgives any more than he forgets. The Holocaust was too immense, too devastating, to be redeemed by forgiveness that God or anyone else can give. However, because the world has been shattered so severely, Wiesel believes that the moral imperative is to do all that one can to repair it. Otherwise, hatred and death win victories they do not deserve.

A Vanished Past

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 563

In 1964, Wiesel revisited his hometown. This return to Sighet, that place in Eastern Europe where his mother and Rabbi Israel had their fateful conversation, was anything but easy. After his liberation from Buchenwald in April, 1945, instead of returning to his hometown, Wiesel had gone to France, where he eventually became a reporter for an Israeli newspaper. Years later, his journalistic work took him to New York, where he became an American citizen.

Sighet was far away. The distance, however, did not involve mileage alone. Once a part of Romania, then annexed by Hungary, and once more under Romanian control, Sighet stood behind the Iron Curtain in the 1960’s. Cold War politics made the journey difficult and dangerous. Nevertheless, Wiesel was determined to go back to Sighet, “the town beyond the wall,” as one of his best novels calls it.

Memory drew him there, even though Wiesel already knew what his visit would confirm: Sighet no longer existed—at least not as it was when he was born there in 1928, or as he had known the place until he left it at the age of fifteen in 1944. More than time had passed. People had come and gone, but that fact only began to tell Sighet’s story. Those things happen everywhere, but the way they happened in Sighet, the particularity and enormity of what happened there and in thousands of places like it, made Sighet’s disappearance so devastating that the world itself could never again be what it was before.

Sighet vanished in the Holocaust’s night and fog. Only traces remained of what once had been. Sighet’s streets looked familiar to Wiesel in 1964, although one called the Street of Jews contained apartments that seemed as modest as they were empty at the time. His boyhood eyes, Wiesel realized, must have been unaware of the poverty that many of Sighet’s Jews experienced.

The movie house still existed. The family house stood still. It had not been sold but taken; strangers occupied it. Wiesel found the Jewish cemetery. He lit candles at his grandfather’s grave. Elsewhere, Sighet was filled with living people, but Wiesel’s hometown was gone. As the Germans liked to say twenty years before, Sighet had become judenrein (cleansed of Jews). Along with hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews, the largest remaining community of European Jews that had not yet been decimated by the Nazis, the Jews of Sighet were deported to Auschwitz in the spring of 1944.

Wiesel and his two older sisters, Hilda and Bea, survived the Holocaust, but most of Sighet’s Jews, including his father, mother, and little sister did not. Few of the survivors went back to Sighet after the Nazis surrendered in May, 1945. Poignantly, Wiesel reflects on all that was lost as he describes his visit to one of the few synagogues that was still open two decades later. Stacked inside were hundreds of books—Wiesel calls them “holy books”—that had been taken from abandoned Jewish homes and stored there. Wiesel began to look through them. Tucked inside one, he writes, were “some yellowed, withered sheets of paper in a book of Bible commentaries.” Wiesel recognized the handwriting they contained. It was his. Summing up his sadness, his memoirs observe that the finding of those pages is “a commentary on the commentaries I had written at the age of thirteen or fourteen.”

Remembering the Past

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 598

This story, the existence of yellow, withered sheets of paper, a boy’s reflections on the Bible—all are part of a world that disappeared. Wiesel seeks to make it live again through memory, testimony, and writing. The episodes he records make questions explode: Why did the Allies refuse to bomb the railways to Auschwitz? Why did Wiesel’s family not accept the help of their housekeeper, Maria? One of the very few Christians in Sighet who offered assistance to Sighet’s Jews, she might have hidden the family successfully. Why was the world so indifferent to Jewish suffering? Why was God?

Wiesel’s narrative does not follow a strictly chronological form. His story does not fit the usual style of beginning-middle-end. The memories of his life circle around each other too much for that. From time to time, Wiesel breaks this commentary on himself even further by reflecting on his dreams. In one of them, the Wiesel family has gathered for a holiday celebration. Elie is asked to sing, but he cannot remember the traditional songs. He is asked for a story, but the stories have been forgotten, too. “Grandfather,” Wiesel calls out in his dream, “help me, help me find my memory!” Astonished, Wiesel’s grandfather looks back at him. “You’re not a child anymore,” he says. “You’re almost as old as I am.”

Wiesel has lived for a long time. He has experienced and remembered more than most people, but he worries profoundly about forgetting. If we stop remembering, he warns, we stop being. Wiesel is older now than most of his extended family who perished in the Holocaust. He lives with the dead as well as with the living. Taking his memoirs’ title from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, which speaks of how generations come and go and of how the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing, Wiesel sounds a characteristically mystical note as he considers how all rivers run to the sea.

Beginning in obscurity, streams of experience and memory rush forth. As they grow and merge, life’s currents become a flood that eventually pours into the ocean’s awesome depth. Like Wiesel’s memoirs, the sea does not yield all of its secrets. Instead its storms rage, its waves crash, its tides ebb and flow, and there are moments of beauty, calm, and silence. Through it all, the sea endures, which is not an answer but an invitation to more stories and to their questions about how and why.

Although Wiesel does not see himself primarily as a philosopher, theologian, or political theorist, he uses the storyteller’s methods to express an influential ethical perspective. Storytellers can deal with ultimate questions, but they do not always answer them directly. That style attracts Wiesel, because his Holocaust experience makes him suspicious of answers that put questions to rest. Such answers tend to oversimplify. They even falsify by settling what deserves to remain unsettled and unsettling. All Rivers Run to the Sea emphasizes these outlooks. It also underscores that Wiesel does not despair even though his Holocaust experiences give him many reasons to do so. Hatred, indifference, history itself, may do their worst, but Wiesel protests against that outcome. By remembering the particularity of what happened to his people under Nazi domination, and by acting on the imperatives that such memory enjoins, he believes there is a chance to mend the world. Wiesel’s survival and the extensive body of writing that flows from it, including All Rivers Run to the Sea, embody that philosophy.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 534

Sources for Further Study

Berenbaum, Michael. Elie Wiesel: God, the Holocaust, and the Children of Israel. West Orange, N.J.: Behrman House, 1994. This reprint of The Vision of the Void, Berenbaum’s thoughtful 1979 study of Elie Wiesel, emphasizes Wiesel’s insights about Jewish tradition.

Berger, Alan L. Crisis and Covenant: The Holocaust in American Jewish Fiction. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985. Contains important reflections on Wiesel’s encounters with and impact on American Jewish life.

Brown, Robert McAfee. Elie Wiesel: Messenger to All Humanity. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983. A leading Christian theologian provides an important overview and interpretation of Wiesel’s multifaceted writing.

Cargas, Harry James. Conversations with Elie Wiesel. South Bend, Ind.: Justice Books, 1992. An updated and expanded edition of Cargas’s 1976 interviews with Wiesel, this important book features Wiesel speaking not only about the Holocaust but also about his audience, craft, and mission as a witness and writer.

Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven. By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. Ezrahi insightfully discusses Wiesel’s writings in the context of a wide range of Holocaust literature.

Gornick, Vivian. “The Rhetoric of Witness.” The Nation 261, no. 22 (December 25, 1995): 839.

Horowitz, Sara. Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. Contains a helpful discussion of Wiesel’s emphasis on the importance of memory.

Kakutani, Michiko. “Remembering as a Duty of Those Who Survived.” The New York Times, December 5, 1995, p. A19.

Kolbert, Jack. The Worlds of Elie Wiesel: An Overview of His Career and His Major Themes. Selinsgrove, Pa.: Susquehanna University Press, 2001.

Langer, Lawrence L. The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1975. A leading Holocaust scholar interprets Wiesel’s work in ways that are insightful and accessible.

Patterson, David. The Shriek of Silence: A Phenomenology of the Holocaust Novel. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Patterson’s book explores the distinctive ways in which Wiesel wrestles with the theme of silence as a feature of the Holocaust and its aftermath.

Phillips, Melanie. “Bearing Witness: Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel Explains the Importance of Memory to Melanie Phillips.” The Observer, June 9, 1996, p. 16.

Rittner, Carol, ed. Elie Wiesel: Between Memory and Hope. New York: New York University Press, 1990. Philosophers, theologians, and literary critics respond to the ethical, religious, and philosophical themes explored in Wiesel’s diverse writings.

Rosen, Alan, ed. Celebrating Elie Wiesel: Stories, Essays, Reflections. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998. Distinguished scholars reflect on the ethical and religious dimensions of Wiesel’s essays and novels.

Roth, John K. A Consuming Fire: Encounters with Elie Wiesel and the Holocaust. Atlanta, Ga.: John Knox Press, 1979. This book explores key philosophical and religious themes in Wiesel’s authorship, drawing out their implications for post-Holocaust Christianity.

Stern, Ellen N. Elie Wiesel: Witness for Life. New York: Ktav, 1982.

Wiesel, Elie, and Richard D. Heffner. Conversations with Elie Wiesel. Edited by Thomas J. Vinciguerra. New York: Schocken Books, 2001. A dialog between Wiesel and his interviewer. Offers the reader a wide-ranging discussion in which Wiesel touches on tolerance, nationalism, and state-endorsed killing.

Zesmer, David M. “Not Quite an Icon: The Complex Private Self of Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel.” Chicago Tribune, December 31, 1995, p. 1.

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Critical Essays